Disciplinary differences in the study of the relationship between social variables and mental health: A systematic mapping review

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Publication details

JournalHealth: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health,Illness and Medicine
DateE-pub ahead of print - 8 Dec 2021
Number of pages19
Original languageEnglish


There has been sustained interest in the intersection between social constructs and mental health from diverse disciplines including psychiatry, sociology and public health. However, no systematic attempt has been made to catalogue what is meant by 'social' by different researchers, how variables deemed 'social' constructs are linked to mental health, nor whether these patterns differ by academic discipline. Understanding interdisciplinary differences and commonalities may reveal opportunities for interdisciplinary collaboration to enhance our understanding of how social factors relate to mental health. This article presents a prospectively registered systematic map of social approaches to mental health using an innovative synthesis methodology (coding all sentences from a random selection of N = 287 articles). Results indicated that although approaches are diverse, disciplinary overlap is substantial. Psychology and psychiatry led articles tend to focus on social skills or emotions as features of mental (ill-)health, while public health and social sciences led articles tend to focus on social relationships, status or context as determinants of mental (ill-)health. Medicine led articles were most likely to focus on social outcomes of mental (ill-)health. Potential growth areas are noted, particularly the relative dearth of intervention research drawing upon social approaches. The findings are discussed with a view towards enabling more effective interdisciplinary collaboration.

    Research areas

  • biopsychosocial model, health services, mental illness, social determinants, social functioning, social support

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